Faced with judgment, Alex Jones asks for help from the “deep state”

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WASHINGTON — Alex Jones, the far-right Infowars broadcaster and ally of former President Donald J. Trump, has spent 25 years and raked in millions of dollars stoking suspicion and contempt for what he calls “ the federal deep state. Now, with his conspiracy empire under threat, Mr Jones asks the government for help.

Facing damages for defaming the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims, Mr Jones last week filed for emergency relief in federal bankruptcy court, a decision a comptroller of Justice Department bankruptcy unit Kevin Epstein called it a “potential abuse of the bankruptcy system.” .”

In an objection filed with Judge Christopher Lopez, Mr Epstein said the motion appeared to be an effort by Mr Jones to delay lawsuits for damages and force the families into a settlement dictated by him, while maintaining control of his business. He added that approving Mr Jones’ plan risked “deliberately piling the deck against the most vulnerable creditors”.

Days later, Mr. Jones contacted the Justice Department, seeking to share what he knows about the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot in exchange for immunity from prosecution. An immunity deal seems unlikely, said two people familiar with Mr Jones’ offer.

Mr Jones’ maneuvers come as some far-right conspiracy theorists increasingly recognize that pushing the boundaries of legal public discourse carries potentially far-reaching personal consequences. More than 200 of the approximately 800 people arrested after the Jan. 6 riot have pleaded guilty to the charges. Ali Alexander, a “Stop the Steal” organizer who marched with Mr. Jones on Capitol Hill after Mr. Trump’s Jan. 6 speech, has received a grand jury subpoena and is cooperating with the Department of Justice’s investigation. Justice.

Mr. Jones presents himself as a fearless truth-teller, defending the First Amendment against government efforts to silence him. But his responses to the Jan. 6 investigation and Sandy Hook lawsuit suggest he is primarily interested in protecting his livelihood. Sued for defamation by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims, Mr Jones lost the lawsuits last year and is struggling to protect his fortune from future damages.

Even as he outlined his offer to co-operate, Mr Jones unleashed a barrage of false claims against the government. “My God!” he said on his show last week. “Fingerprints from the FBI and the Department of Justice are all over the damn thing, and you want to come tell me about it?” You wanna find out what really happened, why don’t you look in that fucking mirror and you can tell me!

Mr Jones, who spreads his conspiracy theories alongside adverts selling dietary supplements, doomsday preparedness materials, videos and other goods aimed at his listeners’ distrust of the government, has made income of $56 million in 2021, one of his lawyers estimated last week.

After the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr. Jones boosted traffic to his Infowars store while spreading lies that the massacre was a staged government pretext for draconian acts. gun control and that the families were “actors” in the conspiracy. In 2018, the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent implicated in the false allegations sued Mr. Jones for defamation in four separate lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas.

In four years of litigation, Mr. Jones has racked up more than $1 million in legal penalties for exceeding court deadlines, evading court orders for documents and testimony, and submitting erroneous or fabricated business documents. In late 2021, judges in each trial found Mr. Jones liable by default, a landslide victory for the families. Juries will then decide how much Mr Jones will have to pay in damages, in trials due to start this week.

This month, lawyers for the Texas families filed a separate lawsuit claiming that with the looming trials, Mr. Jones “conspired to divert his assets to shell companies owned by insiders like his parents, children and himself. -even”, while claiming heavy financial losses. . The lawsuit accuses Mr. Jones of withdrawing $18 million from Infowars between 2018 and 2021, plus his annual salary of $600,000, and funneling $54 million to front companies, measures “designed to siphon off the assets of Jones’ debtors to make them judgment-proof”. ”

This litigation is ongoing. Mr. Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, did not respond to requests for comment.

Then, on April 18, a week before juries were due to decide damages, came Mr Jones’ filing for bankruptcy. The Justice Department’s Comptroller of Bankruptcy filed a quick objection, saying the filing appeared to be an effort to block jury trials.

This view is reinforced by the fact that Mr. Jones did not file for bankruptcy himself, even though he generates and controls all of Infowars’ revenue, and that he is the primary defendant in the lawsuits against Sandy Hook. Instead, the bankruptcy filing involved three Infowars offshoots with no revenue, assets or employees.

Mark Schwartz, an accountant and restructuring officer offered by Infowars, justified the move last week by saying Mr Jones’ bankruptcy would “ruin his name and hurt his ability to sell goods”.

Mr. Jones wants the bankruptcy court to approve a $10 million settlement fund, to be split among the plaintiffs in several lawsuits against him. The implicit offer to the Sandy Hook families was to try their luck in a dispute that has dragged on for four years, or to settle for a fraction of the estimated half a billion dollars that Mr. Jones and his disinformation empire have earned since the murder of their relatives. .

The families want to see Mr. Jones answer in court.

On Wednesday, they filed a motion to dismiss his bankruptcy petition. “These bankruptcy filings were filed to unduly delay these trials” and “attempt to liquidate plaintiffs’ claims in this venue rather than by juries of their peers,” the motion states, adding, “They have no purpose of valid bankruptcy, and they should be dismissed with prejudice as a bad faith filing.

Judge Lopez has scheduled a status conference on the bankruptcy petition for Friday.

Katie Benner contributed report. Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.

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